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News: Ireland
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Part of the crypt at St. Michan’s church in Dublin, in 2006. The church receives about 28,000 paying visitors a year, many of whom come to see the naturally mummified corpses in its crypt. Photo Credit: Dave Walsh/VW Pics, via Getty Images/the New York Times.
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by Archaeology Newsroom

Vandals damage mummified remains in church crypt

The break-in took place at St Michan's in Dublin

The head of an 800-year-old mummy was stolen and the 400-year-old remains of a nun have been damaged after a crypt in St Michan’s church in Dublin was broken into. The crypt is now closed to the public until further notice.

The site has been open to the public since the 1930s and last year 27,000 people visited the church. The vandalism was discovered by a guide while preparing to open the site for visitors on Monday. The body of the mummy whose head has been stolen, known as the Crusader, was turned over. Also, the head of a mummified nun had been turned 180 degrees to face the other direction while another mummy had been turned on its side. A steel internal gate had also been taken, altering the conditions of the crypt and exposing the century-old remains to the open air. Experts fear this will lead to disintegration of the remains, as the conditions in the crypt kept them preserved.

This is not the first time the crypt of St Michan’s has been vandalised. Another incident had occurred in 1996. A group of teenagers had broken into the crypt and had taken mummified bodies from their coffins, dragging them onto the ground and playing football with their heads.

This time the Irish police, the Gardai, have no suspects so far. CCTV footage from the church is under examination, but the police believe that the incident was planned in advance and was not simply spontaneous vandalism.

NOTES